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Pulses Can Help Stabilize Blood Sugar

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Pulses, a category of crops that include dry beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas, can help reduce blood glucose levels when included in a balanced diet, according to an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) study examining their effects on blood glucose response.

A team led by nutrition research scientist Dr. Dan Ramdath, of AAFC’s Guelph Research and Development Centre (Guelph RDC), is studying how eating a meal in which half a serving of starchy foods is replaced with pulses, can result in a significant reduction in blood glucose response and provide other health benefits. "The study aims to provide evidence for the replacement of starchy food in the diet with pulses" says Dr. Ramdath.

Initial findings suggest that individuals with diabetes, or at risk for diabetes, can help manage blood glucose with regular consumption of pulses, or as a replacement for other starch-containing foods.

"Pulses are a good source of nutrients such as fibre, protein and vitamins. Regular consumption of pulses can lead to a reduction in blood glucose and a reduction in blood cholesterol."

- Dr. Dan Ramdath, Nutrition Research Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Blood glucose, the level of sugar found in the blood during digestion in the upper digestive tract, depends on the starch content of foods consumed. Dr. Ramdath says unique characteristics of the starch in pulses can slow digestion and the release of sugars into the bloodstream, which contributes to their blood glucose-lowering effect.

For the first phase of the study, jointly funded by AAFC and Pulse Canada, in-lab and human feeding trials are being conducted to compare the blood sugar levels of volunteers after they have eaten a 50-gram serving of starch-containing foods, such as rice or potato, with their blood sugar levels after eating another standardized 50-gram meal in which half of the starch serving is replaced with lentils or yellow peas.

In the second phase of the study, Dr. Ramdath and his team will develop foods such as soups, muffins, and casseroles from lentils and yellow peas. Blood sugar readings after consumption of these foods will be compared with similar foods made from rice, wheat or potato. Results of the study will be available March 2018.

The Guelph RDC is part of AAFC's network of 20 research centres across the country. The Centre is committed to specialized research in the areas of food safety, quality, and nutrition to ensure Canadian-produced food is the safest and highest quality in the world.

Key discoveries (benefits)

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Dr. Dan Ramdath, nutrition research scientist at the Guelph Research and Development Centre.
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Lentil (left), and dry pea varieties used in the research study.
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Dr. Ramdath and a University of Guelph Ph.D. student measure insulin using in-lab techniques.

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